Cumberland Councillor Jesse Ketler championed social procurement in her first term, and now she’s got more “crazy ideas” for homelessness, energy sources and fire halls that she hopes to pursue in a second term
Jesse Ketler is seeking a second term on the Cumberland Village Council because the last four years have shown her how much can be accomplished with a functional council, and how much more there is to do.
Ketler, who has a masters of science degree in bioresource engineering from McGill University, likes to think long-term and out of the box.
“I feel lucky that the council has supported my sometimes crazy ideas,” she told Decafnation. “And that my introduction to politics has been among respectful councillors.”
Ketler brought the idea of leveraging the Village’s major expenditures to obtain community benefits — a concept known as social procurement. She discovered it while living in Scotland and how it could work at the local government level during conversations with Sandra Hamilton, a social procurement specialist living in Comox.
Cumberland became the first local government in Canada to adopt a social procurement policy, and in its first two years has produced multiple improvements for the village.
What is social procurement? Read about it here.
Cumberland’s success with social procurement has resulted in the creation of a province-wide Social Procurement Hub, to be located in Victoria, that will launch in October and provide resources and templates of policy enacting bylaws to help other B.C. municipalities get on board.
Now, Ketler has some new “crazy ideas” for her second term.
She wants the village to explore the possibility of using the old Cumberland coal mines as a heat exchange system to service commercial and residential buildings. Nanaimo and other cities across Canada, including a similar-sized village in Nova Scotia, have tapped into geothermal energy.
“We already have the most expensive part of geothermal energy creation, the coal mines,” she said. “My goal for the next term is to hire a consultant to study its feasibility.”
FURTHER READING: For more interviews with candidates, go to our Elections 2018 page
She also wants to initiate a Ecological Asset Management program that assigns monetary values to its green infrastructure — parks, waterways, forests, etc. — and create management plans for them like the village’s other tangible assets.
Ketler isn’t afraid to nudge the council toward positions she holds alone, such as including multi-use housing on the second floor of the proposed new fire hall. Other communities have made this unique combination of uses, she says, including one that located a women’s domestic violence shelter in a fire department building.
Ketler chairs the village’s Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee and has served on the Comox Valley coalition to End Homelessness since its inception, which she calls “an amazing story.”
She takes pride that it was Cumberland’s 77 percent yes-vote that tipped the 2014 Homelessness Support Service referendum in favor of an affordable housing tax. The final overall CVRD vote was 53 percent in favor.
She believes the village is close to completing a deal for supportive housing units, and a possible four-story, 24-unit building with retail on the street level that would provide affordable small-sized apartments. The latter project is still under discussion over parking requirements.
Ketler urges village voters to approve a referendum on this year’s ballot that would authorize the municipality to borrow $4.4 million, which she says is needed to fund provincially-required improvements to its $9 million sewage treatment plant.
The village has been out of compliance with provincial sewage treatment standards for a decade and is at risk of being assessed large fines if they don’t upgrade soon.
“The sewer project is already a success story,” Ketler said. “When the South Sewer Project failed last year, the engineers said we couldn’t go it alone — but we have found a solution, and a green one.”
The village has an approved plan to upgrade its existing lagoon system, adding UV treatment and ultimately a reed bed that would clean the effluent of pharmaceuticals and to the Greater Exposure Potential (GEP) standard. That means the effluent could be used for stream augmentation and other purposes, such as agriculture.
And Ketler is quick to point out that the village’s plan to meet and exceed the provincial sewage treatment standard will cost only half as much as the failed 2016 CVRD South Sewer proposal would have cost Cumberland homeowners.
Read the village’s Factsheet about the referendum question here
Recently, Ketler introduced her second successful resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities. The first was to create the Social Procurement Hub.
Her new resolution, which she presented to the UBCM annual convention last week and was approved by delegates, asks the province to not reduce income assistance for people who enter recovery programs. The loss of 50 percent of their income subsidy puts people at risk of losing their housing.
Ketler and her husband moved to the Valley in 2007 and to Cumberland in 2009. They have two children.